If there’s one aspect of travel I can’t seem to shut-up about it’s the importance of knowing some of the history of where you are traveling to. And I don’t mean you have to dust off your old books from Mrs. Miller’s class (this was actually my European History teacher’s name in 9th grade), though that would be nice.
There are multiple ways to get a crash course in history when you visit someplace new to you. One of my recent favorites are Open Air Museums. In the U.S. the places I think of that are similar to Open Air Museums in Europe (places like the Jamestown Settlement or Old Sturbridge Village) are referred to as Living History Museums. I’m not sure if there are more differences than just the name, but thinking of these in terms of being similar to what I’m familiar with helped me understand it more. That’s a mouthful.
In the Netherlands, head to Arnhem to catch a historical and cultural examination in their Openluchtmuseum.
As with most things Dutch, I find this museum to be extremely child and family friendly. The idea is not to learn by seeing, but by doing. Throughout the exhibitions there are opportunities for families to get dirty, to try things themselves, and to be involved in the process. As if that’s not enough, there is also a cable tram running throughout the park, a small tram depot, a playground, a boat dock, mini cars to play in at the cafes, and plenty of pancakes and poffertjes to go around.
Go back in time
Scattered throughout the property are representations of life back when. Many of the buildings are either replicas from one of the Netherland’s cities, or the original building relocated for educational purposes. Through informative plaques and hand-on activities, it’s easy to let history soak in. One of my favorite attractions is a typical street with the same home repeated several times. As you walk into the home you see what life was like in that same place at different points in history. Pretty cool.
When talking about Dutch culture there are certain images that come to mind: windmills, boats, cheese, Indonesian food, tulips, royalty. It’s all there. Many of the exhibitions are perfect for learning the country’s history, there are significant tributes about the modern society as well.
Seriously. It almost felt more like a really cool playground than a glance into important aspects of entire country. It wove the education seamlessly. It’s impossible to walk out without both a smile and a brain filled with interesting tidbits. The perfect way to start any Dutch adventure.
Thinking about going?
- It’s only an hour away from Amsterdam via train (and a bit more via car) close to the German border. Then take public transport to get there from the train station. There is plenty of parking available for those driving, just remember to pay for your parking token when you enter the park.
- It being an Open Air Museum lends itself to being a good option on a sunny day, but there are several indoor exhibits if the weather isn’t perfect. So, bring your raincoat if you see grey skies.
- There are plenty of restaurants and cafes on site. Many are connected to a play area for kids. It’s also very stroller friendly.
Who should visit?
This is an ideal destination for anyone interested in Dutch culture and is looking for a day trip (or longer) outside of Amsterdam. While it is definitely toddler-friendly, the exhibits would be interesting to people of all ages.
Great links for further reading
- The official website for the Openleuchtmuseum (with a drop down menu to change it to English).
- My own post about something that happened during our visit.
- Reviews from Tripadvisor (seems like it’s a nice Christmastime destination, too)